NEW BEDFORD — City workers and members of the public using New Bedford's libraries and other city-owned buildings will no longer have to wear masks inside starting this week.

Mayor Jon Mitchell announced the new policy — which starts at 4 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 18 — on Wednesday.

The decision comes as school districts and municipal health boards statewide are dropping their mask mandates following Gov. Charlie Baker's announcement last week that the state would allow its own mandate to expire on Feb. 28.

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A statement from the mayor's office noted that the move is due to the "recent precipitious drop in COVID-19 transmission in New Bedford," noting that on Tuesday, just 17 coronavirus cases were reported in a 24-hour period.

That represents a 97% drop from the peak of this year's winter surge on Jan. 7, when 562 new cases were reported in a 24-hour period.

The mask mandate will no longer be in effect for municipal buildings like City Hall and public libraries, although public school students and staff are still awaiting a decision from Superintendent Thomas Anderson for the district's school buildings.

"Mayor Mitchell is grateful to everyone who has observed the mask requirement since its establishment by executive order in August 2021," read the statement from the mayor's office.

The statement went on to note that New Bedford's health department is continuing its pandemic response efforts like promoting coronavirus vaccines, monitoring transmission risk, and keeping abreast of potential new variants.

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